What to do if you are affected by neighbouring building work

15 August 2014
What to do if you are affected by neighbouring building work

If you are suffering as a result of nearby noisy building work, there are laws in place to protect you and your business. Paul Burton reports

The problem

The law

Laws are in place that can offset these issues for hospitality business owners. Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 deals with statutory nuisances, including noisy building work. From a noise pollution perspective, most local authorities stipulate that noisy building work can only be carried out from 8.00am to 6.00pm on weekdays, 8.30am to 1.00pm on Saturdays, and no work on Sundays or bank holidays.

Common law simply states that one cannot damage another person's property. If damage is caused to your property due to building work, those undertaking it are in violation of common law.

If builders are on your land without your permission, they are trespassing. This includes scaffolding and cranes above your property. The Party Wall etc Act 1996 covers building work on or at legal boundaries, building work to party walls, and excavations near to and below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings. Under the legislation, both sides can appoint surveyors to mitigate the risk posed by building works and to agree remedial works/compensation for any damage caused.

Right of access under the act is only available when undertaking building work to walls that straddle a boundary line and this is decided upon by the appointed surveyors.

Expert advice Ask nicely first. Legal action should be a last resort and it probably won't help long-term relations with your neighbouring business, which can be invaluable.

It's wise to agree access licences for major building work. Remember that in return for granting access, you have the right to claim compensation and to decide what figure should be paid. You can also set other caveats, such as no work during your busiest times and no scaffolding that blocks your signage. Surveyors can help assess the impact of building work and help with straightforward access licences, while solicitors can help with more complex legal agreements.

Make contact with the owner, too. Contractors are usually left in control of building work by the property's owner, who might not always be present, aware of the law or of the negative impact the work is having on your hospitality business. It is your responsibility to inform the owner of any problems.

If there are any noise issues, keep a record of noise pollution. When approaching the environmental health department of your local authority regarding unacceptable noise, have a record of the times and dates when the noise was made with reasons why it was unacceptable. This will make it easier for the council to take action.

Check whether the work being undertaken is what planning consent was granted for (and whether stipulated conditions are being met). If not, it's illegal. Planning applications and consents can normally be viewed via your local authority's website.

Take photographs before, during and after - they are the best evidence you can have. If there is damage, you need to be able to prove it wasn't there before.

Beware

Next door's building work can have a serious negative impact on your hospitality business and lead to loss of custom. Pay attention to letters you receive announcing construction work next door or on your street.

Contact

Paul Burton is associate building surveyor at Pellings (pburton@pellings.co.uk)

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